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Last week, a SuperPAC formed and led by Brian Perry launched their first in what I’m sure will be a volley of ads that goes after MS State Senator Chris McDaniel. McDaniel is of course the primary challenger against US Senator Thad Cochran.

They must feel like it’s a winner because according to FEC records, they’ve spent over $200K on the buy. If you (have been living in a cave and) haven’t seen the ad, you can watch it here.

McDaniel and those around him have been trying to hit Cochran on a lot of fronts. One of the lines of McDaniel’s attack has been that by virtue of voting for Continuing Resolutions, Thad Cochran has “helped fund Obamacare”. Cochran, like every other Republican in Congress has voted down on ObamaCare as a program every chance he’s gotten to do so. However, since ObamaCare is part of the budget, the McDaniel camp equates a vote for the CR as a vote for ObamaCare.

"I am running primarily because of [Cochran’s] inability to follow constitutional constraints — on spending, on sovereignty, and other major issues," McDaniel told Newsmax, citing the senator's vote last year to re-open the government with a resolution that included funding Obamacare.

In reviewing the "Whoever" ad put out by Mississippi Conservatives SuperPAC, I took one of the claims made by the ad and put it to a truth test of sorts . . . namely, did Chris McDaniel vote to fund Common Core research and programming? Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of super-snarky campaign ads, but I want to strip away the snark and get down to whether or not the Mississippi Conservatives ad holds water.

As background, here’s a YouTube of Sen. McDaniel speaking in 2013 on the campaign trail.

The signoff on the video stated, “We’re very much against Common Core. We’re going to fight it every chance we get.” OK, so it’s pretty safe to say he’s on the record saying he never has done nor will do anything to support Common Core.

But then here are a couple of votes that he made in the Mississippi Senate referenced by the ad.

This bill (HB 1593 in the 2012 session) came through Appropriations Committee, of which McDaniel is a member, and became law.

On line 80 of the bill, there’s very clearly a line item for “Common Core/Literacy” funding for $94,082. He very clearly voted “Aye” as did the rest of the Senate Conservative Coalition. Just to verify it wasn't a fluke, he voted "Aye" again for the conference committee vote on the same bill.

Here’s essentially the same appropriation bill in 2013 (HB 1684).

Same thing again. On line 81, there’s very clearly a line item for “Common Core/Literacy” funding for $94,082. Again, same vote in the affirmative for passage.

I reached out to McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch with this question. How are McDaniel’s votes to fund Common Core buried in bills any different from Cochran’s vote to fund a CR that fund certain parts of the government?

Here’s his response,

"Senator McDaniel, along with nine other Senate conservatives founded the MS Senate Conservative Coalition to end the establishment’s backroom deals that brought us Common Core’s spending and Race to the Top’s federal control—slipped into a last-minute appropriations bill by cloak of night—which Thad Cochran specifically requested in his May 27, 2010, letter to President Obama’s Education Secretary."

"While Senator McDaniel led the charge against Obamacare with his pro bono legal representation and authored bills to end Common Core in the Senate, Thad Cochran both showed his willingness to facilitate the establishment’s backroom deal on Common Core and voted to end debate in the U.S. Senate on Obamacare."

"Wait a minute", you say. "I read that answer and it doesn’t answer the question you asked." I read the response several times over and can’t find anything that comments on the votes referenced above, which were provided to them in the identical context. I gave the campaign a chance to refine their comment thinking maybe the misunderstood the original question. They politely declined.


Here’s my take. This is just the beginning. The vetting that a state senator from the Free State of Jones has gone through versus the vetting that a US Senate candidate will (and should) go through is not even same universe. Though I doubt what’s left of the mainstream press in Mississippi will undertake it, there’s a lot of vetting to be done. McDaniel has a law practice and several years of votes that can be put into context just like this. The fact that the campaign couldn't square up and answer a question like that pretty head on certainly gives me some pause as to McDaniel's campaign bench strength.

My analysis on the race is as follows. If you had a reputable pollster take a poll today that asked likely Mississippi Republican primary voters, “Do you support the re-election of Thad Cochran?”, my intuitive sense is that might be 60% yes and maybe 40% no. I think those results would actually be generous to McDaniel, but let’s use that as a baseline. My point is that I think McDaniel may be at his high watermark right now. Like Obama in 2008, he’s a political tabula rasa. No one in the voting public in Mississippi outside of his own district and maybe those really active in the Tea Party has either heard of him nor looked at his votes or his background at all. He’s never been vetted. He’s simply the “anti” incumbent candidate at this point.

Unless Cochran really stumbles, I think it’s largely downhill from here for McDaniel. As more and more due diligence is poured to every facet of McDaniel’s law practice, every case he’s ever filed or profited from and every vote he’s ever taken in the Mississippi legislature, I think a good campaign machine by Cochran and well-funded independent expenditures will put McDaniel permanently on defensive and never let him get a potent political offense working.

The outside groups that were pouring pretty decent money into his campaign this fall have at least in the short term, stopped. TV ads have almost completely stopped and there doesn't appear to be any sign of any sort of outside funding for a ground game. I think there are two possible reasons. First, they may want to see how the campaign itself comes out of the ground and performs to decide whether or not McDaniel can really make a run. The other possibility is that they literally try to make a last minute big push and try to get folks so mad at Cochran that they’d literally vote for anyone. I personally don't believe either is a recipe for success. For McDaniel to make a run, he has to be pouring piles of cash into name ID and getting folks knowing (and caring) who he is.

Couple that with the fact that with the exception of three or four state senators and a few sparse tea party groups, no one inside the state of Mississippi with any sort of elective stature nor anyone of any import in the state GOP apparatus has endorsed McDaniel’s candidacy at all. Remember, at the end of the day, this is still a Republican primary. He's got to push some big names in his column.

When both McDaniel and Cochran file their first of the year FEC reports to see how fundraising is progressing, that will be the tale of the tape. Can McDaniel money and support from Mississippians in a meaningful way? Right now, I don't have any sort of intuitive sense that it's happening. But that will be a telling report indeed.

My prediction - a lot of sound and fury that will in the end signify nothing.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the author of this article/owner of this website has made a reportable political contribution to Thad Cochran this cycle.

Posted February 7, 2014 - 5:00 am

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